Nowadays we have got a lot of information about different models of keyboards, and all they are quite difficult to cover. So, we hope, that this review will help you to choose the most beautiful, functional and comfortable keyboard.
In this article we will consider the most interesting models. Althought, the review is limited to some extend due to the following reasons:
We did not consider combined keyboards. (A brief review of these keyboards you can find in the Apps). Besides, we did not touch wireless models.
Here you can come across the links to sites of some companies.
Since a keyboard is the only device of text input, therefore:
If you work a lot with texts, choose the most comfortable keyboard.
When the graphic OS had appeared, mice became very popular. We used to mouse functions, but we mustn't forget that the same functions can be easily executed with a keyboard. For example, to rename a file or a folder, it is enough to press F2. However, this way is more complicated, because it's necessary to remember the shortcuts.
But, there are cases when you need not remember anything. There help you the accelerators - the underlined letters in a menu (i.e. ALT+F opens the file menu). With time you will remember all the accelerators, and it would be more convenient for you to use them instead of the mouse.
Use the accelerators.
Besides, today a keyboard gets more and more buttons, the functions of which replace those of a mouse. For example: WL+M close all windows.
Choose the keyboards with additional keys that you really need.
Below we will consider some additional keys.
How long is a keyboard life?
Nowadays you can often hear that a keyboard will be replaced by a verbal input. We think that these talks are too early. For example, can you imagine a completion of a form on the Internet without a keyboard?
In any case, in the nearest years a keyboard will remain a main input device.
Let's take a look on the parameters of choice of usual keyboards.
Mechanism of keys
There are 3 basic types of it:
This parameter defines the cost of the model. I.e.. membrane keyboards are cheaper. The majority prefer to buy the cheaper models, though they have to change it from time to time.
There are two membranes that join together when the key is pressed. When released, the key goes back thanks to the rubber pad with a hole in the center.
The membrane looks like a disc on a plastic layer. The membranes are divided by a plastic layer with a small holes. Since the membranes are on the inner sides of the layers, the construction is protected quite good, i.e. from split coffee.
Semi mechanical keyboards
These keyboards are based on more durable metal contacts. The construction is placed on a printed circuit board. The keys go back thanks to a rubber pad.
The keys go back with a string. The lowlights are absence of impermeability and the high price. The highlights are durability and reliability, especially when contacts are golden.
The fatigue means how weak becomes keystroke with time.
The durability is the number of keystrokes with a good contact. The membrane keyboard durability constitutes 10-30 million, the mechanical and semi mechanical have it appr. 50 or even 100 million. However, for a usual user it's enough 20 million for 10 years and more.
Thanks to its construction, the click does not allow to miss letters when typing quickly.
Form Factor of keys
The form factor (FF) of keys is a form and a place (position) of the keys.
The defining keys
Backspace deletes the previous symbol, and it is used to return to the previous web page. Ctrl+Backspace in many apps deletes the previous word.
Enter is pressed actively, i.e. it's used to press the OK button on the screen.
Both Shifts are used for typing texts as shortcut keys.
Notice, that it's quite reasonable when Esc key is made big enough, since it's pressed quite often.
As for Alt and Ctrl, they are usually 1,5 times bigger than letter-keys.
A big Esc key is an advantage!
Enter key form
It can be:
It's obvious, that L-shaped form is most convenient: it's easy to hit it without looking at it. The other shapes are less convenient.
Different FFs of the keys
It would be much better to make Enter key L-shaped and the defining keys bigger. But there are no such keyboards. Let's consider the existing classes of keyboards.
Here we have Enter key straight, and the defining keys quite big.
The other variants suggest that Enter spreads to the upper line and pushes out the "/" key, which has to move to another place shortening one of the defining keys.
Here we have Enter key L-shaped, and the "/" that shortens one of the "shift"s and stands to the outer side of the shift. It's important, since the shift is moved a little to the center and to the right of Ctrl, therefore, it becomes easy to press Ctrl+Shift.
Here Enter becomes 7-shaped, and "/" is inserted in front of it making the typing inconvenient.
Enter is L-shaped, and "/" shortens Backspace, and therefore, pushes the latter farther.
Estimation of FF
In our opinion,
L-FF makes everyone satisfied when using a keyboard (those who use blind typing and those who not). But people using blind typing will find S-FF comfortable as well.
7-FF and b-FF have equal lows.
It's another goody that substitutes sometimes the Backspace key. But some find that it's realized awful: the Space key is divided into two parts, and one of them (called Eraze-Eaze) got this function.
It contradicts to the rules of blind typing when the space key is pressed by a free hand (so, it can be either left or right).
Fortunately, in case of Eraze-Eaze the both halves can be set to "space" function. That's why,
Eraze-Eaze doesn't worsen a keyboard.
Microsoft company spent 2 years developing a new kind of a keyboard, intended for Windows 95. The keyboard was called Natural Keyboard.
Natural Keyboard features:
Natural Keyboard initiated development of ergonomic keyboards.
The lowlights of these keyboards is the place that they occupy.
If you work with texts a lot and you have the space unlimited, buy an ergonomic keyboard.
After that there appeared broken keyboards, when you can set the appropriate angle. Each half has its legs, the height of which can be adjusted.
A palm rest and a sliding shelf
The palm rest
It appeared with Natural Keyboard and now it's added to the usual ("straight") keyboards.
They can be separate or as a single whole with a keyboard. The separate one is a more flexible solution, but in this case it should have a possibility to go a little up/down.
Choose a keyboard with a separate rest.
Notice, that you can buy them as a separate component for your old keyboard.
The sliding shelf
The lowlights of a keyboard with a palm rest is the place that it takes.
The better decision is a shelf that slides out under the desk. You can buy them separately or together with a desk :). Almost all the computer desks have such shelves installed.
The shelf provides better condition for your arms. Some shelves have quite convenient pads.
The sliding shelf doesn't occupy the place on the desk and makes the palm rest unnecessary.
To make your working place more comfortable, we advise you to fetch an office armchair as well.
The additional key groups
For a long time keyboards had had standard 101 keys until Windows started developing new keys and buttons (a button has a smaller size than a key).
Notice, that some keyboards can include programmed buttons (the definite functions for them are set by the user.)
This group appeared the first (right after Windows 95). The group consists of 3 keys, which are situated between Alt and Ctrl. WL doubles (on the both sides), and WA is only on the one side. So, the number of keys has increased to 104. In the offers you can come across Win, Win95,104 keys.
Choose a keyboard with the Windows keys.
Windows 98 can switch on/off the standby mode for components of the computer (ACPI spec) at the definite time or when the special key is pressed. In this case the mainboard must support ACPI. The sleep keys are:
In the offers they are Win98. On the middle key there is a picture of a moon, the right key shows an alarm clock.
Their position is very important, because you can hit them accidentally, what can cause some problems. There are the following ways of their position (the names are given due to the distance from the cursor keys):
It's the worst place, because they are easy to press accidentally (instead of the paging keys). Some manufacturers have made them sunk a little. It's still better.
The probability to press accidentally is less. Besides, the paging keys get closer to the center.
It's better than the previous decisions, but it has its lows: if you are used to the combinations Ctr+Ins and Shift+Ins, on a new keyboard of this type you might accidentally press PrintScrn. This will cause buffering of a display (it can take up to Mbs if you are working with a graphic editor).
The peripheral position is the best for the sleep keys.
But there are few models with such position.
By the way, there are two shortcut keys for switching the computer off:
They fulfill the following functions:
The buttons are situated above the functional keys.
If you are using the Internet quite often, the Internet buttons will save you time.
They allow to control multimedia players:
If there are not so many buttons, you can set the necessary functions for the buttons you have.
If you are using multimedia players quite often, choose a keyboard with multimedia keys.
In practice, there are keyboards only just with sleep keys or with the all additional keys. In the last case the keyboard is called multimedia version.
The realization of the additional buttons by functional keys
Sometimes for the purpose not to occupy much space there is just one switch button MF (Multimedia Function), which switch the functional keys to implement multimedia functions. BTC company is one of those who install this button. Genius has made an analog button called EasyKey.
Usage of this button together with functional keys is the easiest way of adding programmed keys (Fn+functional key).
ScrollLock has not been using for some reason for a long time already, though it can be used the same way as Fn key, at least.
The interface. Do we need a keyboard with USB-hub
The possible interfaces
Keyboards can be wireless as well. But they are used seldom due to the high price. Besides, they are working on the batteries and require space for a receiver.
That's why when talking of the interface, we mean only usual keyboards:
At the present moment keyboards have both AT and PS/2. The price does not differ much. PS/2 is preferable, and you'd better choose it, even if you have AT mainboard. There are adapters for AT and PS/2 ports, which allow to connect the keyboard to the port of other type. If the plugjack is purple, the manufacturer follows the mainstream.
Choose a keyboard with a colored plugjack.
USB-interface is the latest one and, therefore, can implement more functions:
But inspite of its advantages, it's not so popular due to its price ($15 more).
Is it necessary to have a hub?
A USB-keyboard can be used as a hub: in this case it must have several ports (1, 2, 4) for other peripheral devices. For example, you can plug your mouse to this keyboard.
Remember, that display can also be a hub. Mitsubishi, i.e., releases such models (their names ends with "u", i.e. Diamond Pro 900u). And it's better to have a display as a hub, because we need to move a keyboard quite often (and in case it's a hub, it will drag all cable with itself all the time). Besides, the plugs become invisible.
It's quite convenient to use a display and a keyboard as a hub for low-speed devices.
But those USB-devices as a printer, speakers, an external hard drive require a separate port on the mainboard. All modern mainboards usually have 4 USB ports (so, one will be for a hub for low-speed devices and the other ports - for the devices with wide bandwidth).
Any keyboard occupies huge place on the desk, that's why the problem is how to make it smaller but not at the expense of, for example, the key size.
The second problem is a long distance that the right hand has to cover when using the keyboard and a mouse during the work.
Whether a digital block is necessary
It's useful for tables and some games. The majority are satisfied with the upper line, that's why it would be wiser to take it out of the keyboard for the sake of a mouse.
However, this decision is waning for some Windows shortcuts and different commanders' functions.
That's why the best decision is a separate digital block. They are being released today but cost too much as well as the relative keyboards.
The shortened right side
Here we have a digital block combined with a paging block. The low is that the paging keys move farther, but the cursor keys become closer.
Making the size smaller
Standard keyboards can become more compact at the expense of:
This decision is quite acceptable. It's much worse, when the keys themselves become smaller, or some keys (i.e. which double) are taken away.
The number of simultaneously pressed keys
It matters in some games. Unfortunately, this factor is not indicated by the manufacturer. Moreover, this is usually not a simple figure, but a table, that is, the number of symbols in a combination depends on the combination itself. And all these are different for different models. However, we haven't found anything about it on the net.
The tactile marks
You can find the tactile marks on the letters F and J, and on the grey figure 5. They are necessary to define the position of the fingers at blind typing.
The marks can be different: strips, dots etc.
Choose a keyboard with the tactile marks in the form of prominent strips.
Low radiation and metallic bottom
The low radiation is a main claim, since, first, it's important for your health, and second, the radio won't creak when placed next to the peripherals. Besides, it must agree with FCC (part 15, subpart B, class B), these rules you can find in the documentation on on the backside of the keyboard.
For those of you who like to have the keyboard on your lap, we'd advise to buy the models with a metallic bottom.
Dark color of the service keys
These keys can be dark or can have the same color as the alphabetical keys. What to buy depends on what you like.
Key-top marking can be printed with paints (in this case it's smooth) or it can be laser-made (it gets a little shaggy). But in the second case it's more durable.
Filter for the choice
So, the keyboards can have the following filter:
Besides, the keyboard must "suit" your taste. Take a close look at it, touch the keys before buying.
Pay a special attention to it. The sellers of high-quality keyboards sell them guaranteed for one year. It concerns, for example, BTC, Genius, Mitsumi products and, of cause, the products of brands.
Buy the keyboards guaranteed for a year or the same products guaranteed for a smaller period but with a discount.
The models with S-FF
The describe model is absent on their site. The price for a Retail variant is $25. The key-top marking is made by a laser. The design is pleasant.
Lows: the plugjack is grey, the keys are tough to press, Esc is small.
(http://www.microsoft.com/products/hardware/keyboard/keyboard.htm). All keyboards are membrane. We recommend you to buy the keyboards guaranteed for at least one year, especially those, which are manufactured in Mexico and China.
PS/2-interface keyboards have an adapter that allows to connect to USB-port. The plugjack is purple.
Internet Keyboard Pro
Natural Keyboard Elite has the cursor keys arranged in the form of a cross, 2 rows of paging keys and good compactness. The size: 47 x 34.5 sm.
Lows: the cursor and paging keys are not very convenient as they are a little bit smaller.
Natural Keyboard Elite
Natural Keyboard Pro
The site doesn't contain any information about keyboards, although there are 2 models on sale: the first one is of 104-key type, the other is multimedia with 12 additional keys. Both have perfect design.
This brand company specializes in keyboard production. http://www.nmbtech.com.
The models with L-FF
The company specializes in keyboard production. http://www.btc.com.tw. All the keyboards are membrane, not very expensive and of high quality. The highlight is a bigger size of Esc, and a metallic bottom of some models.
With shortened right side:
The both models have the paging keys moved upward, though it's not convenient to use them. But the cursor keys double (on the both sides). The manufacturer has marked these models as ergonomic due to the joist web and division of the keys into right and left. The retractable legs can be adjusted.
8120 keyboard consists of 2 halves with retractable legs.
With multimedia keys:
There is a 104-key model on sale, though it is absent on the site. (http://www.hp.com).
Lows: a grey plugjack. The price is about $12.
http://www.packardbell.com The site is quite inconvenient to find anything. The company produces a 104-key model. The plugjack is colored, the keys are quite high. The keyboard is of high quality. Lowlights: small Esc. The price is $10.
The models with 7-FF
None of these models is represented on the sites.
6104 LPNRG: the letter L indicates laser-marked keycaps, PN say there are Windows keys, RG indicates Cyrillic alphabet.
Neither the site, nor the catalog contain this model. But it's probably OEM-packing.
The color is grey, the design is elegant. The price is $21.
Lows: the plugjack is grey, the keys are tough, Esc is small.
The company makes the keyboards resistant to heat and moisture.
These are SG-1000 or SG-1040 models. The first one is 104-key ($5), the other contains 107 keys ($6.5).
Lows: the plugjack isn't colored, the design is quite rude.
The models with b-FF
The Taiwanese company is famous for its mice and speakers, but it also produces inexpensive keyboards. Genius is a trade mark of KYE Systems company. http://www.geniusnet.com.tw. All keyboards have soft keys and pleasant design. All models have S-FF of keys. Some models do not differ from that of Chicony company at all.
Unfortunately, the company has stopped producing 104-key models.
The palm rest comes apart. The older model Comfy multimedia-98 has a switch key (EasyKey) which switches the functional keys to multimedia. Besides, there include sleep and internet keys.
We have met only one 104-key model (NK-33). Its lowlight is small right Alt and Ctrl keys. Price - $6.
The site of this japan company (http://www.mitsumi.com) demonstrates only one photo of a keyboard of KFK-series (with S-FF). This is Ergo Classic model with b-FF. Evidently Classic means 104 keys, and Ergo is a separate palm rest. Mitsumi keyboards are famous for their high quality and reliability.
The keyboard is quite compact and it has a nice design. The service keys are dark. The bottom is metallic. The keys are noiseless. The keyboards are manufactured in Malaysia.
Lows: a grey plugjack; the high legs can cause a break of the keyboard.
Application: Other keyboards
There are other types of keyboards on sale (IBM, Acer, Siemens etc.).
In 5530KP model the reduction in size is achieved at the expense of shortening the distance between key groups and quite narrow edging.
There are Win keyboards with a separate palm rest: 5122 ($12) and 5122D ($15). The last contains Eraze-Eaze key.
With sleep keys
The first 3 models are probably the only which have a good position of the sleep keys.
There are similar keyboards 5126 with a separate palm rest ($10). The other look the same. 8110W model is analogous to 8110Ì, and the sleep keys are situated at the left side.
5201D model ($8) has a metallic bottom, but, unfortunately, the sleep key moved far.
104-key model 7932m has PS/2 port for the mouse. Price: $27.
We haven't seen other models with a hub.
These keyboards aren't on sale yet. (http://www.can-tech.com.tw) They have a quite interesting design and bright colors.
All keyboards have:
With sleep keys
These models cost about $7.
These models cost about $10.5.
These models cost about $14. They are very similar to the previous models but the design resembles that of iMac. They are of yellow, pink and other colors.
All but membrane models have a small left Shift key, which is at the edge, at that. The size: 458 x 170 mm. Laser-marked keycaps.
G80-3000 has golden contacts. The price of G81-3504 with 4 USB-ports: $113.
This company produces quite cheap keyboards. http://www.chicony.com. All models but for multimedia keyboards have b-FF.
Inexpensive ergonomic model 7906 ($14) with tactile keys has L-shaped Enter key, small LShift on the edge (contrary to the photo from the site), with an unknown Macro key.
9850 and 9810 models have a narrow upper line and far position of the sleep key, in 9810 model they are a little sunk.
With power supply control
The lowlight of these cheap models with b-FF is a peripheral position of the sleep keys (contrary to the photo from the site).
The keyboards are very compact due to the close key position. Lows: narrow functional keys, including Esc. The older model Comfy-PR98 has a grey plugjack and a close position of sunk sleep keys.
Brand. (http://www.keytronic-europe.com/products) There are only wireless models and with touchpad. The price is more than $110. A small LShift on the edge.
It's a brand in the sphere of input device production. (http://www.logitech.com). There is a membrane model Deluxe 104 with a separate palm rest at the price of $22. Lows: a small LShift on the edge. (contrary to the photo from the site).
105-key model has small Backspace and RShift (with unnecessary Turbo key).
The models are usually called Clickers. (http://www.tai-hao.com) Many models have b-FF. There is an unnecessary Turbo key. The plugjack is not colored. The price of F-21X is $5.
Lows: a small LShift, the sleep keys are not peripheral.
Unknown manufacturer of cheap keyboards.
The usual keyboards have a small Backspace key and shortened RShift (again with unnecessary Turbo); close position of the sleep buttons (they are pink; the photo is from the site of NT).
The model with ergonomics elements (and with the words Turbo Stream) is called Turbo-1001. It's a simplified copy of Natural Keyboard. b-FF. Price: $10.
Lows: left Ctrl is shifted; the palm rest is not separate, close position of the sleep keys.
Turbo-1001 (photo from the site of NT)
Unknown manufacturer (probably Thailand). There is Linkworld LK-201 model on sale. A good design, L-FF, low keys. The keyboard is very compact, flat. Price: $5-6.
Lows: close position of the sleep keys, a small Esc key.
Application: Some combined keyboards
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